Bankers must get act together

David Hellier
Follow David
IT SEEMS an age away now but back in July, on one of those long summer evenings that makes London such a marvellous place to live in, a group of the country’s foremost politicians, business leaders and bankers gathered at the home of Roland Rudd.

Rudd, the founder of the City’s foremost public relations firm Finsbury, made a speech in which he noted that the banking community was enjoying a brief respite from the hostility of the general public due to the media’s relentless pursuit of MPs’ expenses.

The bankers in the audience may have taken Rudd’s comments as a cue to relax because within weeks word got out that US investment bank Goldman Sachs was planning an $18bn (£11.2bn) or so bonus pool. Unsurprisingly the world at large accused the bankers of returning to “business as usual” with unseemly haste given the mess they had made in the events leading up to the credit crunch.

The banks have been on the back foot ever since and have been floundering about how to cope with the fall-out from the credit crunch and its aftermath.

Many of the big banks have allowed Goldman to take the flak single handledly – helped enormously by comments from the bank’s chief executive that his firm is doing “god’s work” – and very few have demonstrated the leadership necessary to get themselves as an industry out of a public relations disaster zone.

Rudd himself has experience of another financial services sector that found itself in the dog-house. Three years ago, the private equity industry and Rudd’s client Permira was at the wrong end of a union campaign that portrayed it as a heartless one that made millions for its key bankers while bringing misery to those that worked in it.

The industry swiftly formed a group to put its case to a wider public and there is now a far wider understanding amongst the public and the media about the positive contribution the industry makes to the economy and the wider community at large.

As far as I know. Permira’s Damon Buffini no longer has demonstrators campaigning against him at his local church. In 2010, bankers need to address the image problems they face.

Which leaves me to wish our readers a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. We will be back on 4 January.

Allister Heath is away.